Samsung is pushing VR pretty hard right now. Alongside the VR-laden announcement of its Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge flagship smartphones, the company also announced that everyone who pre-ordered one of its new phones would also get a free Samsung Gear VR Consumer Edition thrown in.
That’s quite a giveaway – the headset normally sells for £80 – but it means that ahead of the release of the HTC Vive/Steam VR, Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR later this year, Samsung’s VR system will already be in the hands of thousands, if not tens of thousands, of users.
With other mobile manufacturers such as LG recently getting in on the act, this head start could be crucial for Samsung in the race to dominate the VR market.
Samsung Gear VR: What’s new?
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen the Samsung Gear VR; I first reviewed a developer version of the Gear VR back in January 2015. Since then, Samsung has released a second version, designed to fit the firm’s Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge phones, but not much has changed, at least from a hardware perspective.
The new version is lighter overall at 318g, the touchpad is now sculpted to guide your finger, the padding that fits on your face is slightly less thick than it was originally, and the elasticated strap that goes over the top of your head is less cumbersome.
That’s not all, though. At the front where the phone mounts to the Gear VR, there’s now a sprung, adjustable clip, so the headset is compatible with a greater range of phones than before – you can now can fit a Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+ and Note 5 to the Gear VR as well as both new S7 and S7 Edge models. Alas, Samsung doesn’t want you using other manufacturers’ handsets (the spoilsports) so there’s no third-party handset compatibility.
Aside from this, the hardware is largely the same as before and it functions in precisely the same manner. It’s essentially a fancy Google Cardboard, with some extra sensors built into the body of the headset, and a handful of additional practical features. It has no screen of its own, relying instead on a phone being plugged into the front.
There’s a wheel on top so you can adjust the focus to suit your eyes, a pass-through USB port on the bottom of the unit for charging the phone while it’s mounted, and back and volume buttons flanking the touchpad on the right-hand side to navigate around Samsung’s VR interface.
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